The Forgotten Greenhouse Gas

vegetarian
image from gogreen

“Too chicken to go vegetarian?”

A recent batch of ads sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) asks this question.

Though PETA’s primary concern is for the animals, eating meat is actually deadly for the planet, too. One of the leading contributors to climate change is the amount of methane gas released by current methods of agricultural production.

Methane is the chief component of natural gas, but the place that it’s coming from these days seems anything but natural. One cow farts and burps out more than 63 gallons of methane daily. Multiply that by the 1.3 billion cattle in the world, and the planet is going to need a bit more than a dose of Gas-X to cure this problem.

Not surprisingly, several so-called environmentalists have had trouble addressing this problem. Not once in his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, did Al Gore mention methane, probably because it’s the most inconvenient truth of all. Your flesh-eating tendencies are killing the planet (among other things).

The beef industry gets a prime cut of the blame, but the other industries are guilty as well. The production of two pounds of beef releases more greenhouse gases than taking a three-hour drive in your Hummer while leaving the lights on back home, according to New Science magazine.

It can be a lonely world come mealtime for us vegetarians in the Midwest (motto: Beef, it’s what’s for every meal of the day). Even food that appears to be vegetarian is sometimes cooked in animal fat or contains traces of meat.

Fortunately, dining services on campus have been receptive to the needs of vegetarians and others looking for the occasional meat-free meal.

“We are always looking for vegetarian recipes,” says Nona Golledge, director of KU Dining Services. “Even though someone may not classify themselves as a vegetarian, they still want healthier options.”

Golledge estimates that about 26 percent of Dining Services’ 5,000 recipes are vegetarian.

For students who don’t want to make the full transition, residence hall dining facilities serve soy Boca burgers and black bean burgers.

On-campus dining selections have a huge influence on what students eat. Golledge says that on an average day, the 20 on-campus dining operations serve about 10,000 people.

KU Dining Services recently introduced organic foods into select venues, and meat from Local Burger—a restaurant that serves only locally raised meat­—is offered in The Market in the Kansas Union. As consumers, we should buy organic and local products whenever possible because doing so cuts down on pollution while also supporting our local economy.

Becoming a full-fledged vegetarian is a bold and difficult move. I don’t know how many more films like Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me or visits to TheMeatrix it will take for people to make the move to eating less meat, but we can’t keep farting around with such a serious environmental problem.

originally published in Jayplay magazine on Feb. 21, 2008 (PDF). Click here for its original online home.

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